Woman GM Janelle Mae Frayna returns to roots, graces Shell Active Chess national finals
Michael Concio Jr. and Istraelito Rilloraza (both in middle foto) are two of the qualifiers in the 2016 Shell Active Chess tournament national finals. Gerry Ramos

THE country’s first-ever woman grandmaster serves as the guest of honor when the Shell Active Chess tournament holds its national finals this weekend at the SM Megamall.

Janelle Mae Frayna is expected to deliver the inspirational talk among the 48 finalists who made it all the way to this year’s grand finals set on October 1 to 2.

Frayna, 20, earned the third and final WGM norm during her stint in the 42nd World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The Far Eastern University standout also competed in the Shell Active chess tournament in 2005.

“We’re indeed grateful to be graced by the presence of our first woman grandmaster Janelle Mae Frayna at the start of our grand finals this Saturday. She’ll be giving inspirational message to the players as she had also been part of the tournament in the past,” said Melanie Bularan, Social Investment and Social Performance manager of Pilipinas Shell in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate Tuesday.

Meanwhile, gracing the closing ceremony of the tournament now on its 24th year is Asia’s first ever Grandmaster Eugene Torre.

There are three divisions at stake in the nine-round Swiss system tournament, namely, kiddies (8-12 years old), juniors (13-16 years old), and seniors (17 to 20 years old), with the winners in each category taking home the prize money of P20,000 plus trophy. The top female finisher in each category is also guaranteed to receive additional P10,000.

Two of the finalists in Michael Concio Jr (kiddies) and Istraelito Rilloraza (juniors) also graced the forum presented by San Miguel Corp., Accel, Shakey’s, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., along with their respective parents Michael Concio Sr. and Faustino Rilloraza, and tournament director Alex Dinoy.

All finalists – including 15 females - made it after five grueling legs held in the National Capital Region (NCR), Southern Tagalog (Batangas), Visayas, Southern Mindanao (Davao), and Northern Mindanao (Cagayan de Oro), according to Dinoy.

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In all, a total of 1,700 players saw action in the qualifying legs.

Bularan proudly disclosed that Frayna is just the latest Filipino to become GM who took part in the Shell Active chess tournament in the past. Of the country’s 17 GMs, 10 of them once participated in the meet, including Wesley So, Mark Paragua, and Nelson Mariano, among others.

“It is our pride to have produced Grandmasters who once played here,” said the Shell executive.

The annual event, which celebrates its silver anniversary next year, is presented by global energy leader Pilipinas Shell and is sanctioned by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines.

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